- Microsoft is partnering with clinical documentation company Nuance Communications to accelerate the development of ambient sensing tech, AI software that understands patient-clinician conversations and automatically integrates that data into the patient's medical record. Nuance will transfer its internal infrastructure and hosted products to Azure as part of the agreement, which comes as Microsoft ramps up its presence in healthcare.
- Burlington, Massachusetts-based Nuance's product is called Ambient Clinical Intelligence and is built on Microsoft Azure, the tech giant's cloud computing service. The two plan to work with long-term EHR partners like Epic in further developing the technology.
- The two companies plan to bring the tech to an initial set of five physician specialties early next year: orthopaedics, ophthalmology, podiatry, dermatology and otorhinolaryngology, a subspecialty focused on conditions of the ear, nose and throat, with an additional rollout to roughly 18 more specialties after 2020.
Documentation is a major contributor to physician burnout, which by some estimates impacts roughly half of U.S. clinicians and contributes to some $5 billion in industry waste each year.
EHRs create "information overload" for doctors with long cut-and-pasted notes, inaccessible information, notes geared toward billing, interference with work-life balance — with excessive data entry requirements, according to one August study published in JAMA, being the most commonly-cited irritant.
Health IT companies, startups and tech behemoths alike are racing to bring solutions to ease documentation headaches for providers. AI-enabled technology that listens to a clinician-patient interaction, transcribes the speech and automatically inserts it into relevant data fields in the EHR is one potential avenue to do so.
Though the field is still nascent, the speech and voice recognition market is estimated to reach $31.8 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research. And a slew of companies are getting involved in the healthcare industry.
Amazon's Alexa is HIPAA-eligible and the e-commerce giant also offers a speech-to-text service under AWS, its cloud business. Google researchers have been developing speech recognition technology for use in transcribing doctor-patient conversations and aiding documentation.
Newer entrants have had no trouble raking in funding from Silicon Valley. Suki, an AI voice assistant for physicians, landed $20 million in funding last May, and Robin Healthcare, a voice-enabled clinician workflow tool, raised $11.5 million in a Series A funding round in September, bringing its total funding to $15 million.
Payers see potential value as well. Earlier this month, Blue Shield of California announced it was partnering with Notable, a platform supported by Apple Watch that documents physician-patient interactions and uses machine learning to insert details into the patient's health record.
More than 500,000 physicians across the world (and 90% of U.S. hospitals) use Nuance's healthcare-optimized speech recognition and processing services, according to the company.
Nuance launched its ACI product earlier this year. Along with documentation, the system can learn to recognize if a doctor is talking to a patient about a new medication, mine a patient's medical history for symptoms and suggest diagnoses among other use cases, according to the company.
And "ACI will work with any EHR when we launch," Pete Durlach, SVP of Healthcare Strategy at Nuance, told Healthcare Dive.
Initially, the software's output will be checked by a remote reviewer to prove accuracy before it's allowed to run more independently.